Varese, land of experiences

Castiglione Olona and the Collegiate Church Compound

The village of Castiglione Olona has ancient origins. It was a fortress in Roman times and later the village became the subject of a fierce dispute between the Visconti and Torriani families as they fought for years to gain control over the area around the banks of the River Olona. Cardinal Branda Castiglioni moved to Castiglione Olona during the Renaissance and his particularly enlightened initiatives gave rise to a period of the utmost splendour for the village. A good place to start when visiting the village is the Church of the Most Holy Body of Christ, also known as the Villa Church, in the main square as it is a unique example of architecture influenced by Renaissance humanism. It has a cylindrical dome structure and fifteenth-century works of art. Opposite the church is Palazzo Branda Castiglioni, which is made up of two buildings - one from the fourteenth century and the other from the fifteenth century. They have both been added to over the years and contain exquisite fifteenth-century frescoes from the Lombard and Tuscan schools. The most important areas in the palace are the cardinal’s Chapel of San Martino, the picture gallery, and the cardinal’s bedroom and study. A short walk up to the top of Via Cardinale Branda takes you to what remains of the door that once led into the ancient castle: this is where you find the collegiate church compound with the church and baptistery. Built in the Gothic-Lombard style with a Latin cross ground plan, the church was dedicated in 1425 to the Virgin Mary and to St. Stefano and St. Lawrence who are depicted together with St. Ambrose and St. Clement in the beautiful lunette over the doorway. There is also a marble rose on the facade. Inside there are three naves and remarkable frescoes of the life of the Virgin Mary by Masolino da Panicale on the sides of the apse, which also features some frescoes of the Tuscan school.

When: Tuesday to Saturday in the winter (1st October – 31st March): 9.30 a.m. - 12.30 p.m. and 2.30 - 5.30 p.m.
When: Tuesday to Saturday in the summer (1st April – 30th September): 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. and 3 - 6 p.m.
Sundays and public holidays: 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. and 3 - 6 p.m.
Open all day on the first Sunday of the month: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Open all day on Saturday and Sunday: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

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